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A Weekend in Shanghai  

2013-08-05 11:16:53|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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A Whirlwind Weekend


It’s Friday afternoon, approximately 3:43 PM.  I’m bored out of my mind.  When I don’t have translation or interpreting work, I usually just lounge around the office like a sloth.  I type away at my keyboard looking busy, but I’m really just writing stuff like this or e-mailing friends.  I try to make the most of my free time, reading blogs online, schooling myself in photoshop and web design, plans of world domination.  It all gets done.  But man, I miss doing real work sometimes. 


So you can understand my feeling to blow this joint and go drinkin.  I don’t know what it is, but the alcoholic within is raging with a fury.  I’m thinking about booze from noon on.  I want a glass of white wine at the new bar near my office with a rooftop view and cool, jazz and French music.  I want to sit up there, drink elegantly, smoke a cigarette and look like a rockstar.  But doing that alone would suck, so I call my best friend Z and ask her to join me.  She says yes.


At 6:00, and very un-Japanese like, I shut down my computer and clock out like the building’s on fire.  I say “osakini” and run like there’s no tomorrow.  I get downstairs and march toward the new wine bar a few blocks away.  Z says she’ll be about 30 min late since her office is a bit farther away, but I say, no prob, I got wine.


So I’m by myself at the bar enjoying the view, sipping a glass (or two) of white wine and looking at the skyscrapers around me.  There’s some Phoenix (too young) playing in the background and, although I’m alone, I feel really good.  I think, damn, it’s Friday night and I’m in this cool place having wine and Shanghai is an amazing, unreal, so-fast-paced-you’re-on-crack type city.  I’ve never lived somewhere that gets me so high, that is so alive with people and events and culture.  I take a swig and think, “man, living in Shanghai is awesome.”


Three glasses later Z arrives, and I’m feeling the drunk comin on.  But come on, can’t let my friend drink alone, so I order another glass and we toast.  We talk and laugh and drink and look out to the city and enjoy life.  I love Z, she’s the coolest person in China—no, maybe the world.


I say, let’s go see live jazz tonight.  It costs 50 rmb to get in, but what the hell.  She says, fo sho yo.  But I’m on my 4th glass of wine with no food, and I think that spells trouble.  Let’s get some dinner.


In Shanghai there’s this place called Pier 39 and it’s awesome.  This Chinese dude who lived in San Francisco for a decade came back to Shanghai and makes btchin clam chowder soup.  He uses the sourdough bowl bread and everything.  The soup is creamy, just salty enough, and goes great with that authentic sourdough bread it’s encased in.  Oh man, it’s almost better than sex.  Their salad is right up there as well, they give you a big heaping bowl for 50 rmb topped with avocados, meat and cheese.  Now that’s a steal.  The dressing also makes me want to… well… never mind, don’t want to be too raunchy.


We stumble to the jazz bar and get in, I buy a Stella Artois, we sit at a table near the front and ten people pile onto the stage.  Most are Chinese, but there’s a beautiful blonde woman playing the trombone.  She looks cool as hell, I thought—I want to be her.  The pianist is a short, western male that is literally playing a keyboard and a piano at the same time.  He’s so badass.  The entire band lifts up their instruments in-synch and begins their performance.  I’m blown away.


I don’t know if you’ve ever seen live-jazz, but the ensemble of trumpets, trombones and saxophone hit you like a firing squad.  Knocks you over like a tornado.  Pushes you back like a tidal wave coming in full force.  All I can think to myself is: This is real music.  This is what music sounded like before Justin Bieber and Rihanna came and ruined everything.  It’s the essence of music, of being, of living.  You know good music when your foot is unconsciously tapping and you can feel your head bobbing.  It’s true jazz when you can actually feel yourself inside the music, and those notes are echoing inside of your body.  You know its jazz when you can feel the music in your soul and the concert becomes a spiritual experience.


A few songs in a tall, Chinese woman with long hair wearing a sparkling rhinestone dress takes the stage.  She reminds me of the song from Final Fantasy 8, “eyes on me,” where the love of Laguna’s life takes the stage and sings.  She has a deep voice that syncs with the trumpets and saxophone.  Her voice reaches every corner of the room, crooning and pivoting and swirling and swimming.  Her English is impeccable. It feels like I’m in some movie, watching this exquisite woman sing Jazz. 


Z and I leave the jazz club at 1 AM.  The wine has left me sleepy, I can barely walk.  She lifts me up and we go to Lawsons to get some water.  We chug water to prevent impending hangover, and we take separate taxis home.  Time to wake up for Saturday.


Saturday Spells Black Dress


My co-worker Tomoko set up a plan to give Z a makeover, have coordinating dresses and to go out to the opening of a new Italian restaurant followed by a jam session at her friend Ayumi’s house.  I’m all down.


Z has never worn make-up, and I have never, in my two years of friendship, seen her wear a dress.  When Z agreed to the whole makeover thing I was a bit blown away, but more than that, I was bubbling with excitement.  Time to make tomboy Z into an elegant lady of Shanghai.


We go shopping and pick out black dresses then mosey on over to Ayumi’s house.  Her husband, a half-Italian half-Japanese marketing manager for Chrysler, is a musician that is strumming away on the guitar.  We listen to him strum away Mustang Sally while Tomoko is putting eyeliner and mascara on Z.  Z, within the span of 10 minutes, has transformed into a drop-dead-gorgeous Chinese woman, borderline model.  Her skin is porcelain white, her eyes are sparkling, her lips are pink, and her hair is drawn over her shoulders like a black curtain.  She is the epitome of elegant and the opposite of tomboy, and there is no other word to describe her other than absolutely stunning.


I do a shit ass job at putting on make-up, mostly because I suck at it, but sho ga nai.  Tomoko is a pro and looks like a latina queen (despite being Japanese) after she’s done, and we all sport our sexy black dresses and go out to the Italian restaurant.  As soon as the five of us step out the door and walk the streets, we get whistles from those passing by.  Oh yeah, we hot.


The Italian restaurant is way fancier than I expected, and the manager greets Ayumi EU style with a kiss on each cheek.  We’re given free flow champagne and never-ending appetizers, but the free meal we were promised seems like it’s not going to happen.  My starving self chugs champagne for sustenance, scarfing down a mini cup of fancy Italian octopus and Tiramisu when I can.  After an hour of starring at the fancy foreigners filing in and us pretending to look like we’re important, we decide that the restaurant opening is a bit boring, buy some booze, and head for home to jam out.


Ayumi and Sasha’s home is like a Yunnan palace.  There’s traditional folk decoration from every corner of Chinese-minority-society decorating the walls, with drums from Africa, Japan, Europe, China—all lined up in every corner, and all for the playing.  There are at least 4 guitars near the fireplace.  Amplifiers in every room.  Red, furry carpet, the smell of incense, dim lighting, white sofas with aqua blue pillows and wooden floors.  It’s comfortable.  I pour a glass of wine, and listen to them play.


Ayumi sings with Sasha on the drums and guitar, and it’s magical.  I’m envious of the two of them, a couple so made for each other you can’t help but think that their starring in their own romance movie.  The way they look at each other, sing together, and smile at one another--you think nothing in this world can be more perfect.  I yearn for companionship similar to theirs, but I think so silently, and I sip on my white wine with a nibble of cheese.


A Japanese man who has studied music in Brazil for 2 years starts strumming on a guitar with Ayumi playing a strange Chinese flute from Yunan.  Alex takes my hand, I take Z’s and we do a greek dance around the entire apartment that lasts for at least 10 minutes.  It’s long, but I feel liberated, and we continue to loop around the living room, my the furry red rug underneath my toes.


I head home at 2 AM, feeling relaxed and happy, but a stinging emptiness is in my heart.  I’m sad about K, I’m sad about this loneliness I feel, and suddenly the big city of Shanghai feels like an enveloping abyss of solitude.


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